The Utah Court of Appeals today held that expert testimony was unnecessary to establish that a signature was a forgery. This was within the proper scope of a lay opinion under Rule 901: [To establish authenticity, an example of evidence that is sufficient is]: “A nonexpert’s opinion that handwriting is genuine, based on a familiarity with it that was not acquired for the current litigation.”
The appellant argued that expert testimony is needed to establish that a signature is a forgery. The appellate court disagreed, noting that under Rule 701, a lay witness may offer opinion testimony “if it is (a) rationally based on the witness’s perception; (b) helpful to clearly understanding the witness’s testimony or to determining a fact in issue; and (c) not based on scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge within the scope of Rule 702.”
The validity of the signature was “a fact in issue.” The signatures at issue were the witnesses’ own, or their spouse’s. They were familiar with those signatures, and were not purporting to have some specialized knowledge about signatures.
Therefore, this sort of testimony was well within the trial court’s discretion to allow and to rely upon.
Stokes v. TLCAS, LLC., 2015 UT App 98 (4/23/15).